Neil Parish MP: I’m resigning after porn moment of madness

Neil Parish MP: I’m resigning after porn moment of madness

Media caption, Neil Parish: Porn-watching MP on why he’s resigningNeil Parish has told the BBC he is resigning as an MP after admitting he watched pornography twice in Parliament.Mr Parish, who has represented Tiverton and Honiton in Devon since 2010, said it had been a “moment of madness”.He said the first time was accidental after…

Media caption,

Neil Parish: Porn-watching MP on why he’s resigning

Neil Parish has told the BBC he is resigning as an MP after admitting he watched pornography twice in Parliament.

Mr Parish, who has represented Tiverton and Honiton in Devon since 2010, said it had been a “moment of madness”.

He said the first time was accidental after looking at a tractor website, but the second time – in the House of Commons – was deliberate.

He was suspended by the Conservative Party on Friday over the allegations.

Two female colleagues claimed they had seen him looking at adult content on his phone while sitting near them.

In an exclusive interview with BBC South West, Mr Parish said: “The situation was that funnily enough, it was tractors I was looking at.

“I did get into another website that had a very similar name and I watched it for a bit, which I shouldn’t have done.

“But my crime – biggest crime – is that on another occasion I went in a second time.”

He admitted that second time had been deliberate and that it happened in the House of Commons while he was sitting waiting to vote.

Mr Parish said what he did “was absolutely totally wrong”, adding: “I will have to live with this for the rest of my life. I made a huge terrible mistake and I’m here to tell the world.”

He said it was a “moment of madness” but denied watching the material in a way where he hoped other people would see it, saying he was trying to be discreet.

“I was wrong what I was doing, but this idea that I was there watching it, intimidating women, I mean I have 12 years in Parliament and probably got one of the best reputations ever – or did have,” he said.

Asked about why he decided to watch the material in the Commons, Mr Parish said he did not know and that he must have “taken complete leave of my senses” and “sense of decency”.

He appeared emotional as he said he was standing down after seeing the furore and damage it was causing his family, his constituency and local association.

“I was wrong, I was stupid, I lost sense of mind,” he said, adding that he was making a “total full apology” for his actions.

Neil Parish said last night that he would remain an MP while his conduct was investigated. But overnight, under significant pressure, he has changed his mind.

It would have been impossible for Mr Parish to avoid further questions about his conduct and he said he would quit because of the impact it would have on his family, constituency and local party.

The decision will trigger a by-election in what has been a safe Tory seat.

The party took 60% of the vote at the last election – but already the Liberal Democrats are talking up a rural backlash akin to North Shropshire.

The bigger picture here matters too. Westminster has been rocked by allegations of a sexist culture this week.

This story – and others – have damaged Parliament’s reputation.

They’ve also damaged the Conservative party. Both will be hoping Mr Parish’s resignation will help them start to move on.

But many will want a far bigger review of the culture in the Commons.

Mr Parish’s resignation will trigger a by-election in his Devon constituency, in which the Conservatives held a 24,239 majority over Labour in the 2019 general election.

Shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire said it was “the right decision” for Mr Parish to quit and that the people of Tiverton and Honiton “deserve better”.

“It’s shocking that the Conservatives have allowed this debacle to drag out over many days,” she said.

Angela Rayner, the Labour deputy leader, tweeted: “He was looking for tractors but ended up with porn actors? Neil Parish must think you were all born yesterday.”

The deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats called on the Conservatives to “swiftly call a by-election”.

“It is appalling that Neil Parish had to be pushed to resign after those in charge of the Conservative Party spent days dragging their feet,” said Daisy Cooper.

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said there could have been no other outcome than Mr Parish’s resignation and that his actions had been “unacceptable”.

Mr Parish’s local party, Tiverton and Honiton Conservatives, said it supported his decision to step down and thanked him for his service.

Questioned by the BBC about his wife Sue finding out about the situation through the media, Mr Parish said: “I know I should quite rightly be ashamed of that.”

He said she had been “amazingly supportive” but admitted it was not something he “particularly wanted to discuss with her”.

In an earlier interview with the Times, Mrs Parish said the allegation was “very embarrassing” and described her husband as “quite a normal guy” and “a lovely person”.

“If you were mad with every man who looked at pornography, you would not have many wives in the world,” she said.

Mr Parish – who was also chair of the environmental select committee – had been facing an investigation by Parliament’s standards commissioner.

MPs found to have violated the code of conduct can face punishments including apologising to the Commons, or being suspended or expelled.

Senior Tory MP Caroline Nokes had criticised the delay by the Tory whips office to act and suspend Mr Parish from the Conservative party, saying the whips office was “still too blokey”.

Image source, UK Gov

Image caption,

Neil Parish was first elected as an MP in 2010

Who is Neil Parish?

  • The 65-year-old, an MP since 2010, was a Member of the European Parliament for South West England from 1999 to 2009
  • He left school at 16 to manage his family’s farm and, in 2000, was an election monitor during Zimbabwe’s parliamentary election
  • He opposed Brexit in the 2016 referendum and voted against the introduction of same-sex marriage by David Cameron’s government
  • Mr Parish is married and has two children and two grandchildren

On Wednesday, it emerged that a female minister had reported a male colleague for viewing pornographic material while sitting beside her in the Commons chamber. The female minister said she had also seen the MP watching pornography during a hearing of a select committee, The Times reported.

A second female Tory MP said she had tried unsuccessfully to capture video proof of him doing so.

The allegations were subsequently revealed to have been made about Mr Parish.

The government’s safeguarding minister Rachel Maclean denied that the Conservative Party was institutionally sexist, saying: “I think there is clearly a problem in the House of Commons. And I think it extends to all parties actually.”

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